Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Bob Friend’s Curious Waco Start

February 5, 2019
Bob-Friend

Bob Friend Died February 3, 2019.

On one sometimes curiously magical level, life will always be a beautiful connect-the-dots experience. Today, and in honor of the great, but now deceased former Pittsburgh Pirate pitching legend, Bob Friend. we’d like to recall such a link that we don’t think enough people about. ~ It was one that involved him. ~ And who knows how much energy he absorbed and used as only one of the results:

Buddy Hancken
At Age 90

(1) It’s 1950 ~ and 19-year old pitcher Bob Friend is breaking into professional baseball with the Waco Pirates of the Class B Big State League.

(2) One of Friend’s teammates is a 24-year old pitcher named Jack Bumgarner of Norman, Oklahoma.

(3) Jack Bumgarner stays in touch by letter and telephone with a younger brother named Jim Bumgarner.

(4) The younger Bumgarner will move to Hollywood and change his name to “James Garner” as he is breaking into the movies on his way to becoming a major film and television star before the 1950s decade concludes.

James Garner

(5) 35-year old veteran catcher Buddy Hancken is the playing manager of the 1950 Waco Pirates.

(6) Hancken’s entire MLB career consisted of one inning of defensive work behind the plate in a May 14, 1940 game that the Philadelphia Athletics won over the Cleveland Indians by 9-7 ~ but without Buddy ever getting a chance to hit in the game ~ or in any other time from that moment thereafter in the big leagues.

(7) The likeable and sociable Hancken will go on to enjoy a long career as a  minor league player and manager, finishing his career as a coach and  administrative employee of the Houston Astros.

(8) Joe L. Brown, the son of famous film comedian Joe E. Brown. is the General Manager of the Waco Pirates. In 1955, we will take the reins as GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the meanwhile, he and his father’s baseball obsession, along with a connection to good old Buddy Hancken are the reasons for the famous Brown’s extensive trips to Waco. While he is there, he dresses  out in a Waco Pirates uniform ~ and he acts out in the dugout during games as though he were a member of the coaching staff, but one with a broad and loud flair for physical comedy.

 (9) Bob Friend (12-9, 3.08) leads all Waco pitchers in 1950. Jack Bumgarner (11-5, 4.90) and Norman Morton (12-12, 4.50) also so well, but the Pirates still finish with a losing record in 6th place.

(10) Bob Friend is the only man among those three named starters who makes it the big leagues for the major part of his time in the big leagues, mostly with the great rising Bucs of that era and a post-1966 career line of 197 wins, 230 losses and an ERA of 4.58. Friend’s best of 16 MLB seasons (1951-66) was the glorious 1960 Pittsburgh Pirate championship year when he won 18, lost 12 and registered a 3.00 ERA.

(11) How much did any of these connected energy dots have to do, if anything, with helping Bob Friend succeed as quickly and as well as he did. ~ Who know? All I know is that ~ years later ~ I may have picked up a lingering brush with some of them that still lingered, even this late in the game.

The date was August 20, 2004. I had driven to Orange, Texas for the 90th birthday party of Buddy Hancken at this large facility the family had retained to welcome all of us who wanted to be there on this special day for one of baseball’s nicest people.

I had just walked over to speak privately with Buddy at what appeared to be a good time when the phone rang and he answered it directly. ~ You could almost see the energy that poured both ways as they went on for quite a while, exchanging laughs, happy animated speech, and emotional hugs via the phone. I later learned from Buddy that he had just been told to wait there by the phone for someone who had to reach him, but could not make it in person. It had been a surprise call for Buddy too, but one that leaked of love and good will for anyone in the general vicinity.

“Wow!” Buddy exclaimed, as he finally got off the line.

“That was James Garner calling,” Buddy added. “Wasn’t that nice of him to call today!”

“Nice, Buddy?” I asked, as I quickly threw in an extra hug, while adding: “How could he forget you?”

May They All Rest in Peace ….

Joe E. Brown passed away on July 6, 1973 at the age of 80.

Buddy Hancken passed away on February 17, 2007 at the age of 92.

Jack Bumgarner passed away on September 11, 2011 at the age of 84.

James Garner passed away on July 19, 2014 at the age of 86.

Bob Friend passed away on February 3, 2019 at the age of 88.

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The following is a link to the New York Times Obituary for Bob Friend;

Thank you, Paul Rogers, too for sending this information our way:

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For those of you with further interest in Joe E. Brown’s baseball movies and Buddy Hancken’s colorful contact with Hollywood types on the west coast, you may also enjoy this column of ours from several years back. Here’s the link:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2012/05/02/joe-e-brown-was-a-baseball-man/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dome’s Silver Anniversary Team Comes Together 

February 3, 2019

Larry Dierker

ORIGINAL TITLE: Dome’s Silver Anniversary Team brings generations together 

PUBLICATION: Houston Chronicle 
SECTION: SPORTS

DATE: FEBRUARY 8, 1990 
EDITION: 2 STAR 

SUBMISSION TO THE PECAN PARK EAGLE BY: DARRELL PITTMAN, Classic Newspaper Research, with full credit and appreciation to the original source, The Houston Chronicle, for making these materials available for this kind of historical research and reporting.

By LARRY DIERKER   

I was walking to my car in the Astrodome parking lot after a game last summer when I saw a man hurrying toward me, dragging a little boy by the hand. “Hey, Larry, I used to be your Astros Buddy,” he said. “My dad used to take me out to see you pitch. Now, I bring my sons. Could I get you to sign my hat?’ As I was signing the hat, I got the rest of the story. “My dad is over there,” he said, pointing to the area near the Astrodome loading dock where players sometimes sign autographs after a game.

“He’s got my other boy with him. They’re hoping Glenn Davis and Gerald Young will sign tonight. This one,” he said, nodding at his son, “he likes G-Man, but the little one over there lives and dies with the `Bopper’.’ “Three generations, huh?’ “Yeah, we’re all out here. It’s the one thing we all like to do together.” “Thanks for coming out tonight,” I said, as I got into my car. “Come back and see us.” As I was driving home that night, my mind wandered back through the mists of Astros past – just as it did last night, when I joined 26 of the best ballplayers I have known on the Astrodome’s Silver Anniversary Team.

Three generations of ball fans: the grandfathers, who were young and strong when Bob Aspromonte and the Colt .45s rode into town; their sons, like my friend in the parking lot; and the youngsters of today – Jim Deshaies’ Astros Buddies.

Perhaps it’s the reverence with which baseball treats its ancestors that makes it so special – the way the lore of a team is passed along like an heirloom.

And now, the Astros are old enough to pass along.

Former General Manager Paul Richards was the first of the ancestors to go. He died in his hometown of Waxahachie in 1986. Richards’ eyes were narrow and keen, and he had the spirit of a wildcatter. He made his reputation as a shrewd judge of baseball talent, and he was right here in Houston when he struck the big gusher.

Between 1963 and ’66, Richards brought eight of the 25 players on the Astros’ Silver Anniversary team to the big leagues.

Harry Craft, who managed the Colt .45s to an eighth-place finish (in a 10-team league) in their inaugural year, 1962, is still going strong at age 74. Harry was at the baseball card show last weekend and the dinner last night. And I reckon he’ll be at most of the home games this year.

I know Harry wasn’t dreaming of the World Series in ’62. In fact, he should be mighty proud to have finished ahead of the Cubs that year.

By 1969, things had taken a turn for the better. The Astros hit the .500 mark for the first time and had as many good young players as any team around – Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, myself, Don Wilson, Bob Watson and Doug Rader, to name just a few.

After that, the talent flow trickled to a drip. Among the 25 Astros honored last night, only Cesar Cedeno and J.R. Richard broke into the big leagues in the early 1970s. By 1975, the team had fallen into disrepute and financial distress. Folks stopped coming to the ballpark. I suppose some of them got lost in a generation gap.

Some of them seem to be coming back now. And why not? The decade of the ’80s was a good one for the Astros – the best they’ve had so far. Sixteen of the 25 Silver Stars played on division-winning Astros teams in the ’80s.

Bill Virdon should get some credit here. He led the young, brash Astros to their first championship in 1980. And under Virdon’s stern tutelage, the Astros developed the aggressive, heads-up style that would characterize their play through most of the decade.

Perhaps some of the wayward sons and daughters who drifted off in the frustration of the ’70s have not yet returned to the fold. Maybe Ken Caminiti and Craig Biggio will bring them back again in the ’90s. It could happen. For as long as there is a stream of young talent flowing, there will be the excitement of growth and the possibility of that first dream season.

Until that year comes, there still will be fond memories. Like when (Doug) Rader golfed the first home run into the upper deck. And the day (Don) Wilson struck out Henry Aaron for his 15th strikeout and the last out of his first no-hitter.

I remember Joe Morgan going 6-for-6 in Milwaukee in 1965. And the sight of Cesar Cedeno galloping across center field so hard that if he had kicked up AstroTurf, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I remember seeing Joe Niekro transformed from a grim veteran to a frolicsome child in the space of one afternoon at Dodger Stadium when he led the Astros to the Western Division title in 1980.

And Cheo Cruz. I can still see him prancing out to left field and hear his name echoing in the Astrodome. I can see him cutting and slashing his way to almost every Astros hitting record. And I still see him sitting alone on the dugout bench, silently weeping after the Mets stole the Astros’ flag away in 1986.

I can recall the craziness of ’86, too. Yogi and the coneheads. Scotty (Mike Scott) toasting the town with a no-hit clincher and then turning the powerful Mets into whining brats.

And (Craig) Reynolds and (Terry) Puhl. Ever present, ever ready and ever together. After two weeks with the team in 1988, Casey Candaele recognized their cohesive quality when he asked Puhl, “If you drink a glass of water, can Craig talk?’ My boy is almost 5 now. He knows the names of the players and is already picking favorites. This will be his first year in T-ball, so he still doesn’t know the way to first base. But somewhere down the line, I suppose, he will have Eric Anthony, Darryl Kile or maybe even Andujar Cedeno (you heard me right) for his Astros Buddy.

Myself, I’m getting a little impatient for a World Series, like most of the folks who have been around these 28 years. But thinking about this Silver Anniversary Astrodome team sure has made me feel good – made me appreciate the times we’ve had. I hope my boy will feel this way when we hit the golden year.

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1-bb-neal.jpg

Casey McCurdy, St. Cecilia’s, 1992. (Yeah, I know. He needed a better batting coach, but I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else in the world ~ then, now, or, ever.)

EDITORIAL NOTE TO LARRY DIERKER ~

Thank you, Larry Dierker, for providing this beautiful perspective on the Astros Player and Fan perspective from nearly three decades ago. Since 1990, a few more of us have had that walk into the sunset of our own now grown offspring’s childhoods since you wrote these prophetic words. Now I know we share that life-crossing even more closely than I ever knew. ~ In 1990, my son also was 5 until late in the year.

I’m struck to note the time spacing on this re-publication of your column:

1962: Houston breathed its first breath in the NL as the Colt .45s;

1965: The club moved into the Astrodome and became the Houston Astros;

1990: 25 years later, you wrote this column as an homage to the Silver Anniversary of the Astros and to the kind of generational bond that baseball provided to so many of us.

2019: 29 years later, your article is re-printed in The Pecan Park Eagle as a reflection of what has now changed, what is now ironic, what goes on forever, and also, how much the Houston Astros have become even more deeply rooted into the heart of our Houston sports culture.

In 2017, of course, the “dream season” finally came. Houston finally won the World Series, coming out of the first time with the talent, heart, and appetite for more.

In 2019, however, it is ironic that the once revered “Eighth Wonder of the World” struggles for survival in a world filled with those who would just as soon see it paved into additional parking space ~ in spite of all its official historic building designations. In the end, it will be the presence or absence of money that opens the door or breaks the key in the lock on serious plans to preserve and display the site as one of the world’s great contributions to architecture.

From here to eternity ~ and for what goes on forever ~ it is our need to consciously remember that what was important to our generation may not be important to the next. We need to try to show them what we think is important and then let them make their own decisions, based on our best efforts to convey what we think is at stake. ~ If all we show is “use and trash”, our legacy will be a sad and, most unfortunately, a deservedly sad one.

Another irony rings with pleasantness. Houston has long held this reputation for being a “build, trash, and burn” kind of real estate town. Now it’s becoming well known for its presentation of the classic performing and visual arts ~ and for becoming one of the finest museum cities in America. Not surprisingly, that change has come about congruently with the birth and growth and active voice of support for a wide variety of historical places that previously would have simply gone away without protest through most of the 20th century.

Everything that Houston entities do to increase the voice of preservation is, of course, supported by the success of a Houston accomplishment in any area of significant achievement. The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros have now rolled that ball into permanent play ~ And they are getting ready with their 2019 Opening of the Houston Astros Hall of Fame to join the list of Houston museums. Several of the people mentioned in Larry Dierker’s 1990 piece, including Mr. Dierker himself, will be going into the Astros Hall of Fame at Minute Maid Park this inaugural year.

The Astros Hall of Fame. ~ It’s got to be first class. ~ It will be first class. ~ This is Houston. ~ And these are the Astros. ~ There is no second class.

~ Bill McCurdy, Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

Some Thoughts on The New Astros HOF

February 1, 2019

Pecan Park Eagles
Colored our skies
We never played a game there,
We didn’t idolize.

 

What’s Important to Remember during this Astros HOF Start Year 2019?

This is a time of opportunity ~ a time to start pulling together the hodge-podge ways people have been honored by the club in the past, as is the way these things normally go everywhere, and to replace or clarify them relative to a new and more dynamic system that fairly outlines ~ in a firm but growing way ~ how people shall be honored in this Hall of Fame that portrays the accomplishment of individuals who have contributed to the greatness of the Houston Astros over the years ~ hopefully, from the beginning through today.

Without the goal of building this picture of what the club wants the HOF to be, selecting inductees will only be easy in the early years. Once the easy picks of popular, accomplished Astros players is exhausted, and if there is no growing system in place, the selection committee will devolve into a political process that may be guided more by the agility, knowledge, and power of the members supporting each candidate. And that’s why, at least, the concept of a system for searching the width and depth of people in the data base is needed as the framework dancing in everyone’s heads as early as possible.

This year’s class as an example: The 2019 inductees are as follows: Bob Aspromonte, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Gene Elston, Milo Hamilton, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Shane Reynolds, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson and Jimmy Wynn.

What does the list communicate? Several things:

(1) 12 of the 14 inductees were very good to excellent well-known and popular Astro ballplayers;

(2) 4 of these 12 players were already members of the Cooperstown Hall, but only 2 of these were lifelong Astros;

(3) All 9 of the Astros whose numbers have been retired were inducted; and,

(4) 2 “Voice of the Astros” media announcers were also selected.

The 2019 selections impress!

The initial number inducted is high, but it almost had to be. It also may have helped the club deal with a long and thorny problem. ~ The Jim Umbricht #32 retirement. When two-Astro-season pitcher Umbricht (1962-63) died of cancer in April 1964, the young franchise and all of its fans were deeply shocked and grieved. The club administrative culture reacted by making his #32 uniform the first such number to be retired as our salute goodbye. So with it came the fact that his small performance numbers in two brief seasons had nothing to do with making him deserving of the honor as a player. He was simply a very decent and beloved young man who died way too young and his shocking early death was going to be memorialized in a way that usually goes to performance on the field.

The Umbricht #32 number retirement also underscores what happens when permanent decisions are made from an emotionally based occurrence. Three years later, in 1967, when former short-term Astro Walter Bond died of cancer as a member of the Minnesota Twins, there were a few murmurs of support in Houston for retiring his former Astros # too. ~ Cooler heads prevailed ~ and it didn’t happen, but it still shows the power of precedent when there is no system of guidance in place.

System Building Questions to Resolve: 

This may be the best time for the Astros to decide, if they haven’t already, about future player number retirements and the inscription of player names in the sidewalks of Minute Maid Park:

(1) Should the Astros stop retiring numbers? Or should they keep up the practice and allow it to be an automatic ticket into the Astros Hall of Fame?

(2) Should the Astros keep adding names to the Astros Walk of Fame on the sidewalks? If so, does that action  mean that those people are going into the Astros Hall of Fame Alley inside the ballpark too?

Start Compiling Candidate Lists:

For future consideration by the Selection Committee, start compiling lists of potential candidates by their category of performance. These may come from any source involved in the selection process ~ and they may be as open or closed as the Astros will allow them to be ~ as long as the nominating party tries to include how each new name fits into the developing set of standards that are also evolving for induction candidates.

So, what kind of people should the Selection Committee be looking for?

First, The Players:

(1) The No-Brainers: Players who made the Baseball Hall of Fame, completely or mostly, as Astros;

(2) Players who had very good careers, completely or mostly, as Astros;

(3) Players who established significant records in baseball as Astros, even for a single season;

(4) Players whose presence on the team were the sine qua non factor for the Astros in a championship season;

(5) Players whose good careers on the field were over-shadowed by their contributions to social causes enriching our quality of life in the greater Houston community. This fifth entry applies to all persons qualified as candidates for the Astros Hall of Fame.

Second, The Owners: These people are the ones whose very different blends of leadership, energy and passion for the game move so fast on necessary actions that they rarely, if ever, stop to hear the question, “What have you done for us lately?” ~ Does the name Judge Roy Hofheinz ~ and bringing MLB to Houston ~ and building the first indoor AC-cooled baseball stadium ~ and naming it The Astrodome ~ and then proclaiming it “The Eighth Wonder of the World” ring any Quasimodos? These people are the masters of logistics as a tool of purpose ~ and not the other way around. ~ And how is it that a huge success in the field of logistics, Jim Crane, moves into MLB ownership with the Astros and moves right away into a straight short term bulls eye shot as the club captures the 2017 World Series after decades of trial and disappointment?

Third, The Presidents: These folks are called upon to pull an entire organization into winged flight to victory, even when the forces in flight sometimes have differing views on which parts of the sky are theirs. ~ The name Tal Smith jumps immediately to mind. ~ Tal was the legacy gift of former MLB executive Gabe Paul, who came to Houston in 1960 as the first Houston General Manager. Paul left Houston only months later, but young Tal Smith remained here for 35 of his 54 career years in baseball, eventually serving the Astros as both their GM and President ~ in a three shift of time involvement that led to Houston’s first successful run at winning baseball in the late 1970s and early 1980s ~ and the club’s first NL pennant and World Series appearance in 2005.

Fourth, The General Managers: All these great ones have to do is identify, sign, nurture and plug in home grown talent over time ~ or else ~ save the money and throw it in with a few prospects to acquire some already dividend-paying star for immediate use. When it works, the GM looks like a magician with a rabbit that he pulls from his hat. ~ Jeff Luhnow was that man in 2017, when the Astros won their first AL pennant, and then took the World Series from the LA Dodgers in seven games.  his hat. ~ Jeff Luhnow pulled out that 2017 rabbit, but it didn’t fool Sports Illustrated. They saw it coming in 2014.

Fifth, The Field Managers:  Think of former Astro managers like Bill Virdon (1975-82), Larry Dierker (1997-01), Phil Garner (2004-2007), and A.J. Hinch (2014-present). ~ All Virdon did was introduce winning baseball to Houston ~ the kind that almost got the Astros to the World Series in 1980. ~ All Dierker did was lead the Astros to the playoffs in four of his five managerial years. ~ All Garner did was actually get the Astros to their first World Series in 2005.

Sixth, Media: Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton, both Ford Frick Award winners at Cooperstown, were no brainers this time, but their inductions should not be perceived as an automatic media inductee every year. Inducting a media person every year is a disservice to the goal of basically honoring the players and reducing an annual media induction to being something that becomes more of a resume aspiration than a reward for exceptional Astro service on a level equivalent to the work of players ~ which they were not. The only one out there in my book that now that strongly qualifies as a media candidate is retired 30-year TV play-by-play guy, Bill Brown, and he was one of the best ever. Brown’s just a matter of time. ~ How much time? ~ You guys and the Astros have to decide.

That’s it. ~ Coaches, Scouts, Other Administrators, and Support Personnel need to be honored in some appropriate other way. As I see it, the Astros Hall of Fame primarily should aim at honoring the players and the key people who serve as the driving force of ownership, top level administration and management of the product on the field from the franchise’s inception (two years prior to its first season of play) to the present time: (1960-2019).

Doing this kind of job intelligently and passionately is a longtime time love of mine. So, please feel free to contact me if I’ve said anything of interest that needs clarification. I will be happy to respond as best I am able ~ without any need for credit or further invitation for inclusion in the official selection committee business. I’m just an elder Houston fan who would like to see the job done right.

And look! ~ I don’t even own an axe grinder. ~ You guys don’t need me to build this Hall right. I just didn’t think it would hurt you to hear from me. Fact is ~ you don’t even need to read or remember a single word I’ve expressed here today. I just needed to write them. And this being my home turf at The Pecan Park Eagle, well, … you know how that goes. ~ I bought into “why not say them here.”

The Bottom Line:

The Houston Astros deserve a Hall of Fame that rises ~ and remains over time ~ above the pale of petty personal politics. Set it up to succeed as a “see to shining see” walk for fans at Minute Maid Park of all the key players and other people over time who’ve really and truly made the entire history of the Houston Astros a local fan’s joy to behold and embrace!

1. Who Dat

That’s me, Bill McCurdy, on the right, with the late Cardinal and last Houston Buffs owner, Marty Marion, in 2003 at a meeting in St. Louis of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. I was a Browns fan as a kid in Houston. Marion also was the last manager of the Browns in 1953.

Regards,

Dr. Bill McCurdy

Former Board Chair/Executive Director

Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

2004-2008

houston.buff37@gmail.com

713.823.4864

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

New Astros Hall of Fame To Open in 2019

January 29, 2019

 

New Astros Hall of Fame
Coming to Minute Maid Park in 2019

 

ASTROS HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCED

Last weekend, the Houston Astros announced that their new Hall of Fame will open inside the interior structure of Minute Maid Park during the March 25-26, 2019 exhibition series that the team plays against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Text and images of the Hall of Fame plaques will not be revealed until Astros Hall of Fame weekend, Aug. 2-4, 2019.

The Astros revealed full details for the Astros Hall of Fame presented by Houston Methodist at a press conference they held at FanFest in the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan officially unveiled the Astros Hall of Fame jacket and renderings for the Astros Hall of Fame Alley. Bill Brown, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Dierker and Mike Acosta (Astros historian) took part in the press conference.

THE 2019 ASTROS HOF INDUCTEES

The inaugural 2019 Astros Hall of Fame induction class features the nine Astros with retired numbers, as well as the members of the Astros Walk of Fame on Texas Ave. In subsequent years, Astros Hall of Fame inductees will be determined by the Astros Hall of Fame Committee.

The 2019 inductees are as follows: Bob Aspromonte, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Gene Elston, Milo Hamilton, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Shane Reynolds, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson and Jimmy Wynn.

HALL OF FAME ALLEY

The Astros Hall of Fame presented by Houston Methodist will be located in the Home Run Alley area of the ballpark, and will be renamed Hall of Fame Alley. The Astros Hall of Fame will be open and ready for fans to enjoy starting with the Astros exhibition games against the Pirates from March 25-26. Text and images of the Hall of Fame plaques will not be revealed until Astros Hall of Fame weekend from Aug. 2-4.

HALL OF FAME WEEKEND

Astros Hall of Fame weekend presented by Houston Methodist will take place from Aug. 2-4. All members of the inaugural class will be inducted in a pregame ceremony prior to the Astros game on Aug. 3 vs. the Seattle Mariners at 6:10 p.m. CT.

In addition, the weekend will consist of gate giveaways each night for 10,000 fans, including a replica Rainbow Shoulder Nolan Ryan Jersey, a replica HOF Plaque Monument, and a replica HOF Jacket Statue, thanks to our partners at Houston Methodist.

Full details about Hall of Fame weekend are available on Astros.com/HOF.

THE ASTROS HOF COMMITTEE

The Astros Hall of Fame Committee will convene each year to determine the members of each subsequent Astros HOF induction class. The members of the committee are Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan, Astros Manager of Authentication and Team Historian Mike Acosta, 2019 Astros HOF inductee and Special Assistant to the GM Craig Biggio, Astros Community Outreach Executive and former broadcaster Bill Brown, Astros VP of Communications Gene Dias, 2019 Astros HOF inductee Larry Dierker, President of the Houston / Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR Bob Dorrill, Astros VP of Foundation Development Marian Harper, MLB.com National Correspondent Alyson Footer, MLB.com Astros Beat Writer Brian McTaggart, and baseball and Houston historian Mike Vance.

ONE BROKEN, BUT MENDING HEART

There’s not a person among these emboldened black type names that The Pecan Park Eagle and all that’s within me wouldn’t go to bat for any member of the named above group here,  if some kind of harm ~ or misfortune ~ occurred to them, and, in fact, that already happened here a couple of weeks ago when we publicly jumped on the plight of the Heritage Society.

Today it’s my turn. And all I need to is ventilate.

Those of you who know me best will understand that these remarks have nothing to do with ego ~ or any lingering need I may have ~ at age 81 ~ to prove anything to anybody. ~ For me, dear readers, this was like the loss of a love or abandonment. ~ It hurt so bad.

My heart was broken to learn Saturday that my name was not among those who had been chosen to serve as members of the Astros Hall of Fame Selection Committee that picked this original class of inductees. And, logically, I couldn’t agree more with how those who were asked to serve made their choices well. ~ Please be clear. The Committee didn’t need me to score a “10” for each inductee they selected. They were right on target every time ~ for sometimes variably different reasons ~ with great, great picks.

As for me? I didn’t even know until this past week that the Astros Hall of Fame work had progressed this far. I had spoken with Astros historian Mike Acosta a couple of years ago, but we had never ventured too far into what that kind of work my voluntary participation would involve. ~ Maybe I should not have been so presumptuous that Mike Acosta knew anything about my heart, mind, soul, and background for induction work. Perhaps I should have sent him my resume:

  • Unreconstructed member of the east end Houston sandlot baseball club, The Pecan Park Eagles (1948-52);
  • Knothole Gang Member and devoted fan of the Houston Buffs (1945-61);
  • Rag-tag outfielder-pitcher for the St. Christopher Kids in parochial and city league baseball (1951-56);
  • Devoted fan of the Houston Colt .45s (1962-64) and Astros (1965-2019);
  • Board Chair/Executive Director, Texas Baseball Hall of Fame (2004-2008);
  • Member, Larry Dierker Chapter, SABR (1992-2019 ongoing);
  • Publisher, Editor, Principal Writer, The Pecan Park Eagle (2009-2019 ongoing).

Where did I go wrong? From 72 straight years of Houston baseball, the entire history of our Houston MLB club, four years of hard work at the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, getting several of our great Astros inducted there while I was on the job, ~ and then writing close to 3,300 columns on baseball ~ and mostly Astros topics ~ on the WorldWideWeb-read Pecan Park Eagle, I apparently still didn’t do enough to merit membership on the new Houston Astros Hall of Fame Committee.

Here’s how my reaction has changed in the three days that have passed since I got the news.

Saturday, 1/26/19, I was actually flattened. It scared me. It was like the fan belt that runs all my inner soul parts had burst at one time.

“What’s the point?” I thought on Saturday. And I deleted a pretty good story I was working on. And then I could not even write my name. “If writing is my life,” I thought, “then what’s this all about?”

I literally couldn’t write a damn thing. Nor did I seem to have any further desire to do so.

Never been here before. Writing always has been something that poured through me like water through a fountain. It was the adult version of my childhood sandlot ~ the place I ran to barefoot each day for play and happier, cathartic, deeper inhaled breathing. It was the same kind of breathing I get today from writing ~ the kind that springs the muses loose from their moorings in our collective unconscious ~ about anything and everything.

And here I was ~ taking a sneaky sidearm pitch of “piece-of-crap” news ~ like a stinger to the heart ~ and allowing it to then get into my head like somebody had just built a wall of steel around all sides of my once sacred sandlot place we knew best as either Eagle Field ~ or “the lot” ~ for short.

Tuesday, 1/29/2019 is now here ~ and it feels different.

My feelings are better three days later, especially now that I’m writing this piece. ~ My writing is back. ~ My spirit never surrenders. ~ And my soul never dies.

I may have wanted this very special Committee experience as my ride into the sunset, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be. One of life’s favorite lessons makes one of its routinely destined appearances: “Expectation is the eager set up shot for painful disappointment.”

Good luck to the Astros and the Selection Committee. I forgive you too, Astros, for either forgetting me, overlooking me, discounting me, or consciously ignoring me as a media source, even though The Pecan Park Eagle reaches the whole world too. You don’t have anything to prove to me ~ and I don’t have anything to prove to you. ~ I am still an Astros fan ~ no matter what ~ and always will be.

In the future, when the selection work gets a little harder than pulling “can’t miss” names out of a hat, let me know if you run across the names of Frank Veselka, Jack Henderson, Popeye Berry, Kenny Kern, Randall Hunt, Billy Sanders, Lloyd Kern, Jerry Stovall, Jack Lipscomb, Linton Lipscomb, James Don Ward, Charles Willis, Jackie Perkins, James Blake Snelling, Eileen Disch, or Johnny McCurdy.

If any of those names and files appear, just send them on to me. Those fierce battlers were older influences and actual members of the Pecan Park Eagles. Just send their file records to us here at The Pecan Park Eagle of 2019, and we’ll take care of them from there.

Have a great Tuesday, Everybody!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ragtime Cowboy Joe Heralds Astrodome

January 25, 2019

Statue of Jack Murphy
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego CA

Nearly 54 years ago, San Diego Union Sports Editor Jack Murphy writes of the newly opened Astrodome: “It’s a pitcher’s park, a hitter’s park and a customer’s park. Everybody loves it. Houston is Calcutta with a ten-gallon hat and a drawl. But inside the dome is 72-degree comfort.” ~ San Diego Union, April 13, 1965.

Thanks to another fine research recovery by friend and Pecan Park Eagle contributor Darrell Pittman, here’s another fine writing artifact from the man who even wrote his way into the hearts of San Diego fans to the point of them naming a stadium for him in their fine town. Remember hearing of Jack Murphy Stadium? Well, folks, this is the guy. Here’s the piece on what we have to suppose was his first game trip to the Astrodome ~ and it happened four years prior to San Diego even having a major league team.

~ Jack Murphy, San Diego Union, April 13, 1965.

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How Prophetic! ~ “Chances are the first domed stadium will be as antiquated as the Palace Theatre by the time a World Series is played here.” ~ Jack Murphy, April 13, 1965.

The only thing that Murphy underestimated was changeable Houston club ownership impatience for the task of keeping the Astrodome in the mix for the entire huge time lapse that passed before the Astros reached a first World Series. The club finally got there forty years later in 2005. By this time, the Astros had been out of the original dome for six seasons and were then playing in the downtown covered venue we know today as Minute Maid Park.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Ode to a One-Man HOF Induction Year

January 24, 2019

Typical Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Day Crowd
A Cooperstown, NY Summer Time Annual Event

 

Ode to a One-Man HOF Induction Year

By Bill McCurdy

 

He made it to the Hall of Fame

By being very good.

He wasn’t full blown greatness

But he did the best he could.

 

While some greats put in twenty years,

He played a cool fifteen

Of hurly burly baseball time

That wrapped up lean and clean.

 

He didn’t reach three thousand hits,

Nor B.A. a three hundred dime,

But he swung at few bad pitches

And his patience was sublime

 

Add he was good ~ so very good

And all who knew his smile

Could feel the warmth of caring

That exuded from his style.

 

So why don’t we induct him now,

Looking forward to this summer,

‘Cause missing out ~ for everyone

Would truly be a bummer.

 

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a tether column link to “The Hall of Very Good” ~ Bryan T. Smith

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2019/01/23/the-hall-of-very-good-bryan-t-smith/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

“The Hall of Very Good” ~ Bryan T. Smith

January 23, 2019

 

hof 4 2019

NEWBIES FROM NOON: Edgar Martinez @12 Roy Halladay @3 Mario Rivera @6 Mike Mussina @9

Writer Bryan T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle put it very well, even if droves of others find themselves sitting in the same puddle of newly reenforced imagery this morning of what the Hall of Fame has been becoming and unabashedly now reached. ~ The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is now almost full bore into the practice of inducting famous players who once were “very good, but not great” ballplayers during their careers.

I would have to agree. Of the four men inducted by the BBWAA yesterday, only save king reliever Mariano Rivera was “great”. ~ Pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina ~ and designated hitter Edgar Martinez were only “very good”, but all were were very famous and also good enough to draw visitor crowds and a large TV audience to Cooperstown, New York for the annual induction celebration on the culturally pastoral lawns of upstate New York.

In earlier times, when there were no inductions due to the absence of any great player candidates, the kind of high dollar event that now stages itself each year would have been impossible. Now, however, inductees are necessary to draw attention and financial aid to the induction event. It is the event that is important now. The importance of the specific players being honored? ~ Not so much.

It’s not just a baseball thing.

This is the era of event importance over what is actually happening. One doesn’t have to be qualified to hold public office today at any level to find themselves elected by the voters to service. They just have to be able to make the voters think that their elections are going to make a difference either way, left or right.

Look at today’s movies, if you can sit through the special effects noise of a battle between two “who cares who wins” foes. Movies no longer have to be great or deep in storyline to win Academy Awards; movies based on video games have a chance to win awards today that once were reserved for great story and acting. Now it seems that they just have to succeed in luring the younger crowds and and all their dollars to the theaters ~ and the Academy Awards night simply becomes the event which celebrates their fame and not their greatness.

Please check out Smith’s column for a much more detailed and interesting look at how this is working in the way very good players now are finding their ways wide open through what we might call the “event window” and into the Hall of Fame.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/There-s-no-correlation-between-Hall-of-Fame-13553618.php

As for these four 2019 BBWAA-inducted players, Mariano Rivera is the only “no-brainer” great one. The rest are obviously very good and only arguably “great” in the eyes of some ~ but enough to get well past the 75% vote total each needed from some of the voters who supported them ~ not because they were great ~ but because they were “good enough” to go in. That’s my read, anyway.

Rivera, in fact, was no surprise, even if his 100% first ever complete voter support was a little shocking in light of the fact that even Ruth never did that well. On the other hand, who could have honestly not voted for the greatest closer of all time ~ especially in light of the “good enough” names he shared space with on this ballot.

“And I say to myself ~ what a wonderful world!” ~ Louis Armstrong.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

Houston Weather Pretty Good By Comparison

January 23, 2019

A Highway in Pennsylvania
January 20, 2019
By Casey McCurdy

Our son Casey McCurdy sent us this photo from where he was driving on the roads of southern Pennsylvania Sunday as we sat at home in Houston, comfortably watching the NFL Playoff games in 72 degree comfort from the mildly annoying temperature outside of a brisk 48 degrees.

The temp along this particular pictured SoPA Expressway was 8 degrees with an outside reading of 20 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale at the time it was taken.

Houston, indeed, is much better located on the human comfort range than the great northeast most of the time. We may sleep with our shirts off in the summer at times ~ but that beats the heck out of trying to put on every shirt you can find on a rare cold Houston winter night when the temps are way down ~ and the power goes out.

An acquaintance from New York recently asked me how we locals stood the Houston summer heat and humidity prior to the 1957 coming of mass available home window ACs. My explanation was simple ~ prior to 1957, we just didn’t know any better. Our homes were natural air temp, as were our cars, our schools, and most of our work places. We had internal home attic fans that sucked the humid air through our open windows during the hot months ~ and helped a lot. ~ It was what we were used to.

When you walked out the home front door during the summertime pre-AC days, there was no big sense of temperature  change ~ as there is now ~ when you walk out of a centrally cooled home. Prior to AC, you were in heat then too when you went outside into the Houston August heat, but it was a far less radical change of the conditions you had vacated by moving from the inside to the outside than it is today.

Back then your first outside thoughts were to get to the locked car in your driveway and get those windows rolled down as soon as possible. That hot-as-fire dashboard chrome has to cool before your hand or arm bumps into a serious burn on a hurried backing-up exit from a late to work or school rolling retreat from the short driveway.

..and you had to roll down the car windows as quickly as possible to remove the chrome-aided bakery conditions that were hot as hell there. Ignore that step and you left yourself vulnerable to serious chrome burns on the hand and arms as you backed out of your one-car driveway.

The movie theaters, some of the downtown stores and banks, and River Oaks were our only air-conditioned respites from the heat, but since most of us didn’t have enough money to bank or do much shopping downtown, that only left River Oaks and the neighborhood movie theaters as the possible cooling off spots.

Again, most of us east enders didn’t have the kind of friends in River Oaks that would invite us over to swim or get out of the heat, so we just played sandlot baseball all day ~ except for the so-called polio dangerous “heat of the day” hours of 12-3 PM time-out that our mothers enforced upon us as “attic fan home arrest time.”

When we could get there, we swam our hearts out in the pool at nearby Mason Park, but we almost never got to see Galveston until we were old enough to work, buy a jalopy or borrow the family car for the trip on our own gas and then drive south to the Gulf of Mexico and Stewart’s Beach, pulled mostly by our adolescent hormones to meet girls.

ice-storm

1950 Houston Ice Storm

The Houston Ice Storm of 1950 did supply us with a rare weather extreme, of the type they seem to continue having back east on a fairly regular basis. Most of our normal weather extreme brushes tend to occur with stuff that comes our way in summer, from the supposed gates of hell. This one came at us from the north pole during the winter.

Here’s a link to the column I wrote several years ago on the Houston Ice Storm of 1950:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2011/02/02/the-houston-ice-storm-of-1950/

Those were the days, my friends!

 

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Nine Years Ago on 1/21 in SABR Houston History

January 22, 2019
sabr 012110 11

JANUARY 21, 2010

While doing some photo file searching this morning on another piece I’m writing, I ran across a whole misplaced series of photos I had taken at one of the last, if not the final event itself, of the late and still missed winter baseball banquets that once were the acme moment of the Hot Stove League Season in Houston. All of these undescribed photos are of Larry Dierker SABR Chapter members who attended the January 21, 2010 dinner at one of the large luxury hotels near Minute Maid Park downtown.

Here they are ~ with no further identification than their individual numbers in this presentation. If you care to comment on any of them in particular ~ or upon the end of the dinners years ago as an annual event, please comment below. What we get from you will be move up to the body of this column by editorial discretion as the major thought content of this post.

Silence speaks volumes too. It’s not always right, but it’s always loud.

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sabr 012110 01

Photo # 1

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sabr 012110 02

PHOTO # 2

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sabr 012110 03

PHOTO # 3

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sabr 012110 04

PHOTO # 4

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sabr 012110 05

PHOTO # 5

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sabr 012110 06

PHOTO # 6

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sabr 012110 07

PHOTO # 7

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sabr 012110 08

PHOTO # 8

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PHOTO # 9

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PHOTO # 10

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Time Travel Tease: The Ruth-Gehrig Film

January 20, 2019

Babe Ruth (L) and Lou Gehrig
(You didn’t really need the help, did you?)

It happened on April 11, 1931. The New York Yankees made a short trip to Brooklyn to play the Dodgers in an exhibition game at Ebbets Field and Fox Movietone was there to get this great film footage (with sound) of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig taking batting practice prior to a growing stadium crowd. It’s just what it appears to be ~ a fortunate capture of the two great Yankee sluggers back in 1931, simply doing their ordinary pre-game routine for the action to follow.

The Gehrig-Ruth BP Film Link:

Video of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig's batting practice shows how bizarre their swings were

Filmed from behind the two left-handed batters as they took their cuts, we also get a pretty good view of the lower near home plate left field side  of home box seats and the stir of early fan and concession sales personnel. Hardly anyone seems to be paying much full attention to either of the two swat-meisters taking their practice cuts. That’s right! Even though they may have not bragged about it even then, New York fans always have been self-entitled to more than one team “sultan of swat” at a time. And besides, nobody pays big-ticket bucks just to go watch batting practice anywhere ~ even at these exhibition games. ~ Unless ….

Unless what? ~ We’ll get to that question soon, but just a word or two more about the crowd first.

People are dressed to the nines. Women are adorned in beautiful stepping-out long skirts and caps; men are dressed in suits and ties and hats. The food sales guys are the younger worker and older rummy type men in the white jackets and caps who all seem to share the ability to statue-of-liberty a hot dog with their shouts of “right here” appeal to the fans.

Many people in the stands sit and talk in twos and threes, with eyes facing each other, while others stare out beyond the infield on a thought path that may run as short as ~ “should I eat now or later” ~ to ~ “is baseball the meaning of life for everyone that it is for me?”

The fans in the Ruth-Gehrig film clip also share another common trait that is immediately noticeable to all of us who’ve almost made it through the first decades of the 21st century. ~ No one is talking or playing digital games or texting or taking selfies on a cell phone. If they are not watching Ruth and Gehrig take a few knob-nubber hacks, it’s as we said at the start here, these early 20th century fans didn’t come to the ballpark to watch the big boys practice. In 1931, If they were Yankee fans, they came to watch their club destroy the not-so-good Brooklyn Robins, whose 1931 nickname for the eventual Dodgers trademark moniker was still in use as an homage to their revered long-time manager, Wilbert Robinson.

Now let’s get back to our “unless what” qualifier from above.

Maybe a fan, or a small group thereof, wouldn’t pay more for their best tickets unless this one trip to see Ruth and Gehrig was possibly going to be their only opportunity to ever see them live again! ~ And why so? ~ Because of the possibility that these rare game viewers were time travellers from the future who might either get lost when they tried to return to their own future era of origin. Look for the ones who seem to be paying constant attention to Ruth and Gehrig as much as you or I might.

Now, before you call to place my commitment in action, please be aware that even the great genius mind of the late Stephen Hawking conceded in his last book that time travel to the past is theoretically possible. In fact, the light from earth for every second in history already recorded still exists at an unspeakably high number of light years away from us now ~ and all we have to do to retrieve it is to bring our time and space technology up to the task of its full recovery and then take the next step into energy conversion that will allow us to enter into those recovered fields as though we were already there when they originally occurred. Congruent time and space travel will make that possible, if we can work out some of the bugs that got in the way of that basic step attempt in the 1958 Vincent Price movie, “The Fly”.

Simple as that! ~ Simply enjoy this gift to our times. The short film shows two of the greatest players in baseball history going through “a day at the office” in their very different era.

As for the present or near availability of time travel, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. By now, we all know from both fictional and philosophical works that the major danger of time travel at full interactive capacity with people or past events is that anything we might change ~ changes everything else ~ and all it would take is for our presence in the past mix to alter the conditions that made our existence today even possible.

And why in the world would any of us want to be rendered non-entities by time travel when anyone among us can stay in their own time zone and be rendered has beens or non-entities in our normal flesh location?

It ought to be a no-brainer! 🙂

” Two words about me going back in time to correct my mistakes and then becoming the greatest pitcher in history ~ ‘You never know!’ ” ~ Anonymous.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle